A few weeks ago we accompanied a friend on a deer stalk with the aim, for us, to film the trip. Nothing amazing in that I hear you say, yet the film we made received some significant back lash from a few viewers. Why? Well the simple answer is that Josh, our deer stalker, missed his first deer not once but three times. We could dissect the many mistakes that led to this unfortunately incident which could include the distance from which the shot was taken, the perceived pressure placed on Josh to shoot, or maybe Josh's ability to shoot. The accusations made were generally aimed at poor judgement, and worse, from a number of people who thought the video was detrimental to the shooting community. They may be right, but I'm not one for hiding from reality and pretending everything goes perfectly to plan. To do so simply creates a false veneer and as such weakens the right of all to conduct their passions, not protect them.
I've considered the content of the film myself over the last couple of weeks, along with the comments made. It's evident that some people reacted without considering all of the facts and from an onlooker perspective and not the people on the ground at the time. Being a critic of people is an easy thing to do. Roosevelt's speech 'Its not the critic that counts' is insightful for pretty much any occasion and is very relevant here. Thats not to say people don't have the right to comment. Of course they do, but understanding the bigger picture is something maybe we should all consider before instigating our right to free speech. One key piece of information, made public in the title of the film, is that this was hopefully going to result in Josh's first ever deer. He's held his DSC 1 for a considerable period of time but the only opportunity he has been able to access is a 'sniper' position on a small copse bordering a field. He has to hope deer emerge from that copse into his killing zone and this hasn't occurred on the 7 or 8 times he has taken up his position. It's unlikely they ever will. I am fortunate to have access to a large area of deer populated ground. It's tough going however, not only underfoot, but also in the fact that the resident sika deer are, to me, the most challenging of the six species, that now inhabit this great land of ours, to hunt. Having access to this land, and hearing from Josh about his predicament I happily agreed to allow him the opportunity to stalk once I had the authorisation from the owner of the shooting rights.
Our role in the stalk, wasn't to guide (from a professional focus), but to accompany and film Josh (for our benefit). It goes without saying however, that we would offer advice on where he may find deer based on our experience stalking in the area. Outside of any safety issues (of which there were none) we wouldn't interfere in his day. But let's get to the point. There could be any number of reasons why Josh missed but I would venture to say that the pressure of the day, his first weapon optics sighted deer and the knowledge that he would be unlikely to be in this position again for some time to come all added to the trigger moment. The first miss would likely have exacerbated the second and then the third. It's easy to say, from the comfort of a keyboard, 'I wouldn't have done that' but you never know how you will react in a real situation. Your mind makes different decisions based on realtime inputs and the situation simply takes over. Repeated exposure to high intensity situations is the only way to learn control and ensure you perform how you would really like to. Military organisations call this Situational Awareness training, and those units that conduct situational awareness training perform better than those that don't.
The big question therefore, is how do we get situational awareness training for deer stalking, wing shooter, wildfowler etc? The simple answer is to get out more, but thats the problem. There simply isn't enough hunting ground in the UK for people to pursue their countryside activities of hunting, shooting and fishing without spending a considerable amount of money for the privilege. The USA, who excel at hunter conservation, have swathes of public land that anyone can access to pursue their chosen quarry. Other countries have similar models but it isn't available in the UK as nearly all land is privately owned and those opposed to hunting have pretty much made it impossible for any remaining public land to ever be considered suitable for hunting activities. Fishing is in a slightly better situation, but it still isn't great especially if you love river fishing for salmon or trout. The situation isn't likely to change from 'without' so we need to change it from within. There is only one real way to do that and it falls to those of us already luckily enough to have permissions - share!
I can sense recoil from many who covet their permissions possibly more than their spouse, but if we truly want to promote countryside pursuits to the wider population we need to make it easier for others to get involved. I'm not suggesting we make it an open season for all to give open access, but where you know of someone trying hard to get involved in this way of life, constructively assist them where you can. Sadly, since starting Fayre Game Pursuits, time and again we have come across people actively involved in shooting who don't want anyone to know about it. Hiding what we do simply fuels those opposed to it. It undermines the argument that its not a small minority who support hunter conservation but rather an attentive vocal mass.